A PR blog I recently read featured an article from Cheryl Conner in Forbes titled, “Why Toughest Bosses Are Best.” She wrote that bosses who set high expectations, never give unearned praise, and articulate clear goals and milestones are most desirable. She posted Jill Geisler’s “Seven Deadly Sins of the Too-Nice Boss,” which lists how softies-in-charge get little accomplished. I began reflecting on my own bosses during my 31 years working and teaching in public relations.
Not counting agency work, I had 15 different bosses in that time period, from college presidents to politicians to heads of nonprofits. Only a handful were “tough,” and the others were somewhere between wishy-washy and downright silly. The silly bosses were self-absorbed and unfocused, and were most concerned about their next promotion or job. The wishy-washy bosses were either competent professionals who rarely took a stand; or they were too nice, allowing for staff complacency and incompetence. This only resulted in frustration for those who worked hard to pick up the slack.
I think my least favorite boss was the person who wanted my suggestions but never empowered me to take action. That individual would endorse my plans one day and nix them the next without explaining why.
My tough bosses could be very tough. One of them never praised, or said “thank you;” his autocratic style sometimes scared me. But he set the bar high and expected his staff to reach it, which made me try to look at my work through his eyes. My favorite tough bosses were very smart and would respect the work done by my colleagues and me, taking the time to explain the rationale behind their decisions.
Extremely high on my boss list was the person who gave me my first PR job. She was a true professional and a mentor. Like a good teacher, she allowed me to make decisions and mistakes, encouraged me to be self-reliant, and always took the time to explain. I’ll always be indebted to her, one of my kindest–and toughest–bosses. Your thoughts?